Known in Japan as the Senkoku Islands, in Chinese as Diaoyu, and claimed by both China and Japan, and also Taiwan, these barren rocks which may or may not have large amounts of oil and gas underneath them and in the surrounding South China seas, have been the scene lately of some of the more intense jousting in the South China Sea, including yeasterday's water cannon exchanges between Taiwanese flagged ships and the Japanese Coast Guard.
That is a very curious move for Taiwan to make at a time of serious Sin0-Japanese tensions oiver the Senkoku-Diaoyu, since Taiwan has very close ties to Japan, dating to the annexation of Taiwan after the first Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95.
Other than the Southern half of Korea, no place in East Asia has had an intensive ongoing ties to Japan than Taiwan, and that tie to date has been marked by far less ambiguity than in the case of the ROK.
Although the ROK has to manage anti-Japanese sentiment from WWII and the prior colonial era, as a factual matter much of what the ROK is today was built on semi-Japanese foundations as to say chaebols deriving from keiretsu.
As to Taiwan, there was far less resentment of the Japanese tie from 1895-1945 than in the case of the ROK, which makes yesterday's confrontation between Taiwan and Japan all the more puzzling, save possibly for the rise of China.
Thus, possibly the correct metaphor is the placement of the story of the launching of a Chinese carrier opposite the story of the Taiwanes-Japanese confrontation: the stronger China grows relative to Japan, the stronger the incentive there is for Taiwan to flip teams, unless America and Japan grow a lot bolder with respect to China.
That is probably the best single explanation, although there are other forces in play, in particular the desire of Taiwan for freedom of maneuver between China and Japan, in which appearing more independent of Japan in the Senkoku dispute would have its uses, and internally as well.
As to Taiwan's motives in that regard, after the victory of the Communists in the Civil War, the Guomintong crossed over the Straits and basically took over Taiwan from the native Taiwanese, if they maintained very intensive economic and also via alliance with America political ties with Japan.
There was however always resentment among the native Taiwanese fowards the Mainlanders occupation, and so therefore, it is popular in many Taiwanese circles to do anything that makes Taiwan look and be more independent, inclusing taking an independent line in foreign policy, creating manuevering room between China and Japan in the process.
It could also serve, depending on how people want to use this new episode of Senkoku-Diaoyu, to de-escalate the situation, by signalling Japan that it can't just bliindly count on Taiwanese support while signalling to China that Taiwan is a free actor.
On the downside of that, an independent Taiwan of course is not something Beijing looks upon favorably, just as Japan and America wouldn't look favorably on Taiwan trying to evade the consequences of being alies either, as that might encourage Chinese adventurism in general.
But as to constituting a very curious manuever, there is no question that for Taiwan to send its own ships to the Senkoku-Diaoyu at a time of intense tension is a very curious manuever indeed.